From clearing out your wardrobes to creating astonishing new business ideas, enterprising Really Simple Money readers have impressed us with their business acumen.
Bakers have been churning out biscuits for friends, then selling them on websites. And fashionistas have been clearing their racks of dresses and shoes on Facebook. Some entrepreneurs have even been checking out ritzy suburbs on their council collection days, collecting saleable items and putting them on Gumtree.
But the story that touched us most – and demonstrated a strong lesson in good business – was that of Maree Smith and her enterprise Gladys and Jack.
Working to combat the pain and suffering of a debilitating illness, she found a market with a product people wanted and turned it into a strong enterprise.
Maree wins our $5,000 cash prize – which she says she will use to further grow the business she has created.
Maree started the business after being diagnosed with an incurable illness, Gastroparesis.
After the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Maree had been feeling unwell to the point where she couldn’t eat or digest food. She was passing kidney stones and was eventually diagnosed with the disease which caused her to struggle mentally. Food had always been a big part of her life.
“It was torturous. I couldn’t have the food I enjoy. I was actually starving and I could feel my body starving itself to death and that was difficult mentally because obviously eating is a normal basic need.”
“It affects not only you, but your whole family. We’re around food. When we have celebrations or you go out with your friends or husband it’s food, food, food, so that changed a lot of who I was. I was grieving food.”
Gladys and Jack started because she needed a coping mechanism. She started making some fragrance products with her 14 year old daughter, Lyla. They wanted something that they could customise but that would also be long-lasting.
She’s loved fragrances since she was a little girl. “Every time I would make the product I felt whole and absolutely amazing and between the aromas and the emotion, I could just lose myself, forget time, place and I just realised I enjoyed it.”
That love of fragrance led to her sending fragrances to her friends and family members.
“We started making products for my mum, aunties, cousins and friends and they all loved it so much. They fell in love with the products.”
The name Gladys and Jack is inspired by her grandparents.
“They were the type of people who believed in keeping people connected, like on Christmas we would have big gatherings and we’d have strangers over. They’d make sure nobody was alone and they were very thoughtful.”
Gladys and Jack grew from there with her giving the products to her friends and family members.
“It started to snowball and so we had all those people wanting the fragrances and as it went on I had people buying for their friends.”
She relies heavily on word of mouth at the moment.
“The word of mouth kept spilling over and then people I didn’t know were ordering off me and that’s kind of kept me busy through being sick and being in and out of hospital with this illness.”
“With the illness you become malnourished and the complications can be quite dangerous.”
The business has taken her mind off her illness and allowed her to put her energy into bringing positivity into people’s lives.
“I love that part of what we do. We are all about the customer designing and customising their product so it’s more about them getting what they want, for example, we have reed diffusers that we sell and the customer can choose bottles to suit their own decor and the scent.”
Gladys and Jack also makes a body wash collection, which she says is a lot of fun.
“We have the Lyla Collection which is a bit of fun. They (customers) can choose their colour, their scent. We only use quality ingredients from Australian businesses.”
With the $5,000 prize money she plans to look at more product development and will source products from Australian businesses. “I want to support other Aussie businesses and expand the range.”
She’s planning to focus on the marketing side of things and acknowledges she’s been lucky with word of mouth.
“I want to have a marketing budget, so being able to put money towards that, I feel so blessed and grateful.”
It won’t stop there though. Maree has a plan to start selling in Australian stores.
“There’s a few stores I want to launch in. The money will help me get a pack ready to send to shops.”
As her product is a niche product, she will target boutique style stores.
Very much a family business, she runs it from a studio out the back of her property in Melbourne. Her husband, Simon and her son Cooper (16) and daughter, Lyla (14) also help with the process.
“I can just sit on a stool and tell them what to do.”
Her real passion is in making people happy though.
“I just really want the recipient to feel the love and to feel thought of and to keep those two feeling connected. That is at the forefront of everything I do and I’ve had such great feedback.”
Before she started Gladys and Jack she had finished studying psychology and it was actually because she was able to stop that she was able to focus on what she loves.
“If I hadn’t stopped I may not have given myself enough time to do what I love.”
Fragrance has always been a passion of hers with her adding that she often associates scents with memories.
“Scents can make us feel a certain way and I wanted that from the customer’s perspective, having an experience, the scent triggering a beautiful memory for them and having those positive thoughts.”
“That part is really important as well.”
She’s very grateful for the money.
“I really want to thank you for listening to my story and Really Simple Money and doing this for small businesses in Australia at the moment is exactly what we need. That support is what we need and we need to support and help each other.”
Her grandparents were big on connection and relationships with each other so it’s fitting that she named the business after them.